Rocket — Slack-style Emoji Everywhere on Mac | Tools and Toys

Chris Gonzales on The Sweet Setup:

Back in early July (2016), Australian designer and developer Matthew Palmer released Rocket, a Mac app that gives you Slack-style emoji autocomplete everywhere you type on your Mac. It’s as simple as it sounds, and free to download. (It also feels like something that should be a default part of OS X/macOS. Maybe someday!)

Once Slack introduced this simple way to write emoji in their app, I know I’ve been wishing it’d be available everywhere. My wish has come true.

Burnout. That Word Doesn’t Mean What You Think it Means

Let’s clarify what’s actually being said.

I saw this tweet thread, and it really inspired some thoughts in me. Here were the parts Sarah Mei said that really resonated with me:

As an industry we’ve been talking quite a bit about how to avoid burnout & how to come back from it. But we’re using the wrong word.

When we pathologize the non-involvement side of the cycle as “burnout,” we imply that the involvement side is the positive, natural state.

Cycles of involvement & non-involvement in extracurricular tech are natural (and healthy) in any developer’s career.

This is the stage I find myself in. I’m not super involved in the conversations inside the web space, and its kind of been like this for about 3 years now. Guess what? I regret nothing!

I regret nothing!

What Sarah brings out so eloquently is that you go through ebb and flows of activity—it’s normal. Even more importantly, trying to diagnose it as burnout just reinforces the idea that you somehow need to “prevent” it. You don’t need to prevent it, do what you want to do. The consistency of change in life is something you can count on. Priorities will change, and things that were important to you at one point, will no longer be. Being involved in important web conversations was so important to me at one point, but it’s not anymore.

I wrote articles, spoke at conferences, podcasted, made all sorts of things—spent every waking moment thinking about the web, and it didn’t make me happy. I made some pretty high profile friends, and was at the table with some amazingly smart people, but the void in my life only grew. There I was in the middle of my 15 seconds of web fame, feeling like I was missing out on something better.

I understand, the pressure to do this is huge. Some employers put words like “passionate” in their job descriptions to not-so-subtly say they want someone who lives for the web and tech. In their eyes, only people who have an unhealthy obsession over a product they didn’t even create are valuable. These are the same people who think that 80-plus-hour weeks lead to a pile of money, so they’re obviously not that smart to begin with.

And hey, this means that your job applications are laughed at sometimes because you don’t have any articles published, there doesn’t seem to be a web design podcast you host, and your GitHub profile doesn’t show any open source contributions. Be thankful these companies didn’t give you a second glance, because you’re too good for them. And I’m not just saying that.

In the end, it’s ok. Forget about all of these people and just be you. Work on things you want to work on, write what you want to write about, spend your evenings and weekends on whatever the hell you like.

But don’t fall into the trap of doing all these extra things because you’re supposed to. You’ll be just fine, you’ll still have great opportunities, and your personal life will be a lot happier.

How We Designed Our Interview Process | ReadMe.io Blog

Gregory Koberger on the ReadMe.io Blog

Hiring is a broken system in the startup world.

Whether it’s hiring a product manager, a sales rep, or an engineer, employers often neglect to think about the experience from the interviewee’s perspective. They’re so worried about finding the most impressive candidate that they don’t bother exposing them to the day-to-day work or telling them about the inner workings of the company. As a result, the candidates who interviewed well are asked to take the job with no clue about what they’re getting into.

As you may have noticed, hiring processes are on my mind a lot these days. ReadMe.io is doing something right here, and I’m sure will result in them hiring some really great people.

Get the Original Image from a Data URL | CSS-Tricks

Chris Coyier:

Someone wrote in asking how they might get the “original image” when all they had was the data URL version of the image. I’m not exactly sure how you get into that situation, but hey, I woke up in a trunk more than once.

This is why Chris Coyier is Chris Coyier. He writes about the stuff you’ve encountered so many times, but think everyone else knows how to do.

I had a very “duh” moment with this one that’s sure to get me out of a bind at some point.

How to Make Firing People Suck Less for Them and Suck More for You | Signal v. Noise

David Heinemeier Hansson:

Maybe if you fire a hundred people, you’ll eventually get used to it. But I doubt it. Firing people is horrible. Nothing has stressed me out more in the past twelve years of running Basecamp.

Of course, however hard it is to be the one to fire someone, it’s endlessly worse to be the one fired.

I’ve been fired once before. It was a horrible experience, but the people who fired me were insanely kind and gave me generous severance. I had just moved out on my own—out of state no less.

If you’re a manager, this is a must-read.

CSS Writing Mode by Ahmad Shadeed

Ahmad Shadeed:

Recently, while editing some CSS in Opera inspector, I noticed a CSS property called writing-mode, this was the first time that I know of it. After some research, I learned that its purpose is for vertical language scripts, like Chinese or Japanese. However, the interesting thing is that when using it with English, we can create a vertical text very easily.

On Design Tests

Should you take them?

Looking for a job is a stressful affair. Filtering through hundreds of job descriptions requires stellar skimming skills. After all, you want to minimize wasted time on ones that don’t meet your personal requirements. Postings with little to no details about salary, benefits, and the day to day of the position are surprisingly prevalent.

Then there are those applications with the “Tell us something unique about you in 150 words” to remind you that your interests are pretty typical. I watch shows millions of other people watch, I read comic books, and love Star Wars like most nerds do. I’m just me, and I was happy with that until I had to answer this question.

The actual interview we’ll skip because we all know that interviews are stressful and that you feel absolutely powerless as someone decides whether you’re “good enough” after knowing you for 30 minutes. Let’s just assume that went well and now they say the infamous words, “We like you! Can you do a design test for us?”

This is the moment I panic. I’ve never passed a design test. Never. And I’ve been working as a design professional for 8 years. In those eight years, I’ve had 6 jobs. Still, any job dependent on me doing one of these tests has always decided to pass on me.

To prevent you from similar pain, here are some red flags to look out for and how to decline if need be in a polite and respectful manner.

Red Flags

Let’s talk about some red flags when it comes to design tests. If you’re in the position of hiring people, and you’re doing any of these things, you might want to reconsider why you’re doing it this way.

Asking for a redesign of a full page

This is ridiculous. The factors taken into consideration for one component on a page are many; it’s impossible to have all the information necessary to redesign the entire page. You’ll end up doing a lot of guess work.

Especially in product work, you never redesign the whole page at once. You’ll most likely redesign components one by one. Ask for the scope of the test to be reduced. If you’re the one hiring, pick a component that could be redesigned and try to give the person as much information as you can about it.

This gives you some insight into the company though. If the test doesn’t match their day to day process, what could that communicate about them?

Not offering compensation

Do not do any test that takes more than an hour without compensation. This is called spec work. No!Spec can give you more information about what spec work is if you need clarification. I love this sentence under why it’s unethical:

The designers work for free and with an often falsely advertised, overinflated promise for future employment; or are given other insufficient forms of compensation.

Ask for your regular hourly rate. This is scary, and I’ve failed to do it many times. But if you don’t respect yourself, you’re inviting others not to either.

Unfortunately, people will say anything to get out of paying you. Don’t allow yourself to be intimidated. They’re taking time away from paying projects, or evening and weekend time that you could be spending with family, friends, Netflix—whatever it is you like to do on your free time. Also, ask yourself, would they provide free work for one of their clients?

“We want to see how you perform under pressure”

Run. Run as fast as you can. Looking for a job is pressure enough! What the hell are they thinking? If they want to see how you “perform under pressure”, they are likely working under unrealistic deadlines and don’t scope properly for the time allotted.

Obviously, there is no perfect place. People make mistakes and everyone works a little more to meet a deadline every once in a while, but it shouldn’t be the norm. These words not only indicate it’s a pattern, it’s a requirement. You don’t need the stress. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Giving little to no direction

Instructions should be in writing. The task may be given to you over the phone or video chat, but ask for an email with the information, or send an email confirming the instructions given to you. Ask for more information if you need it.

Questions like:

  • What exactly do you want made or redesigned?
  • What are the problems with the current design?
  • Why is this a priority and how was that discovered? Is there any user data you can make available to me?
  • How do we measure success for this?

Keep in mind that these questions will not only give you more information about the assignment, but will also give them insight into how you approach a design problem.

No clear process for feedback, critique, and discussion

Getting a sense for their feedback and critique process is important. If they don’t offer a time to present, ask for it. You should be given the opportunity to talk about your design, explain why you did what you did, and receive feedback on whether the design met their requirements.

I’ve messed up here in the past. I sent a mockup via email with some bullet points to explain what I did and later received an email with a no. No feedback; no critique; no discussion. It’s unfortunate for both parties, and ultimately indicates a lack of experience from their design team.

If you’re a hiring manager, this next part is for you. Look, everyone will make something crappy one day. If your process is to look at the crappy thing and discard it, you train designers to be afraid of pushing boundaries and making mistakes. Doesn’t matter how many problems you may have with the design test, you should always talk about them. You decided after looking at this person’s resume and portfolio that you were interested enough to interview them. Give them the respect they deserve by giving constructive criticism. Not to mention, designers aren’t mind readers, we can’t magically know what criteria you are judging the design on.

Your Response

Finding a way to respond has been difficult. I’ve been suckered into doing things I know won’t end well because I either really liked the company or needed the job so badly that I compromised my values. It’s why I’ve failed no less than five design tests.

Here’s a response that not only says no in a respectful manner, but introduces an alternative:

Hi [Hiring Manger],

Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me! I hope you understand why I have to push back on [name of test]. They’re often big tasks with quite a bit of investment that go uncompensated. However, I’d love to do something else to prove to you I can do the job. I can do a presentation of something I’ve made so that you can get a sense of the way I think about design and development.

If that’s a deal breaker, I totally understand. I really appreciate you considering me, and best of wishes in finding your ideal candidate.

Regards,
Timothy B. Smith

Design Engineer
@smithtimmytim

A Meaningful Alternative

An alternative I like posed by Matt Crest has worked well to find great designers. Matt asks candidates to present an app that’s designed well and one that isn’t. We’ve used this task successfully where I currently work to hire some really smart designers.

On the surface, this may seem as a simple enough task, but in practice it offers insight into how the designer thinks. In a small amount of time, you get a feel for what they look for in a design, what reasoning they have for disliking something, why they think a particular app works, and even why something may look bad, but still works as an experience.

It’s effective because it reaches the core of what we as designers do. While aesthetics are important, it shouldn’t be the first priority. The thinking behind a design—a person’s thought process—is what makes a great designer.

It’s why I think design tests are misguided, and it’s mistaken to think these tests help find quality designers. When the deliverable is a static mockup, the only thing you’re testing is visual taste. You fail to test the persons thinking ability, problem solving, selling of their idea, and whether the person compromises when their opinions are challenged by reasonable arguments. Consequently, you miss out on amazing people who might just need some refinement of their visual skills.

Parting Thoughts

Though the focus of this blog post is to argue against design tests, the bigger problem I see is our hiring practices in technology. Companies increasingly make prospective candidates jump through all sorts of hoops that at times border and even cross over into unethical.

I get it, hiring is a huge investment and really tough. Companies invest the time of their employees, money to work with recruiters, post the job on job boards, and even offer a referral bonus. And even with that huge investment, there is still the possibility the person doesn’t work out.

It doesn’t excuse the fact that many processes employed, deny people their dignity and show lack of respect for them as professionals. We need to fix that, and it all starts with admitting there is a problem.

Further Reading

Failing | The Brooks Review

Ben Brooks:

You should be confident in what you do, but know that failure can still happen — and failure is not good. That’s how you avoid failure itself — by seeing it as possible, and correcting mistakes which can lead to failure along the way, not the next time around.

What’s not ok is assuming that if you fail, everything is ok and you still get a trophy — sorry, you failed. Some of your employees lost their homes, cars, and have suffered because you failed. So no, you don’t get a trophy, or a feather in your cap, you’re just an ass going around a telling people that you are only more awesome now because you failed.